The Ultimate Guide to Albania Bus Travel
Searching for information online about Albania bus travel and schedules is a tough task. My go-to websites/apps don’t have any information; they reckon that schedules don’t exist. But they do, of course they do; these websites just aren’t in the know. Getting around Albania by bus just requires being a bit braver than in other Eastern European countries.
Now, when I say ‘braver’, I don’t mean that you are taking your life in your hands by getting in an Albanian bus. What I do mean, is that you will have to do a lot of crossing your fingers, standing at the side of the road where a local thinks the bus passes, and getting up close and personal (and likely very sweaty!) with everyone else on the bus.
Travelling by bus in Albania is a whole cultural experience in itself, and I would say that if you haven’t jumped in a furgon (more on that later!), you haven’t really been to Albania.
We spent five weeks exploring the whole country by bus, and so we have put together this ultimate guide to Albania bus travel to give you the info that we wish we had!
The Ultimate Guide to Albania Bus Travel
Road conditions are improving
Road conditions along the main routes are pretty good. The older blogs with reviews about potholed and dangerous roads are becoming more and more obsolete. The road quality around Albania is improving significantly.
That being said, the road from Shkoder to the Komani Lake ferry terminal is an absolute shocker. We were being thrown around in the bus for two and a half hours because of the lumpy roads. (Fingers crossed this will be fixed because it is a main route for tourists venturing up to Valbona in the Albanian Alps.) Find out more about hiking in the Albanian Alps here.
A furgon is a minibus
Furgons are minibuses that yoyo back and forth on a specific route. They are very flexible and so will pick you up or drop you off anywhere along their route. They have their destination on a sign in the window. Flag it down, jump in, and then pay by cash when you leave. Bear in mind that more people will be squeezed in than can actually fit.
Furgon down the Albanian Alps
Bus stations aren’t centrally located
Bus stations are generally out of the main part of town. Most bus stations have a public bus service nearby that can take you into the city. Buses connecting out of town stations to the city centre have a very small fee. Pay this in cash on the bus, sometimes, 30 or 40 lek.
Bigger buses have aircon
Bigger buses have aircon and connect larger cities. They tend to be more comfortable but are not necessarily more expensive. Pay on board in cash.
Cities have multiple bus stations
Larger cities may have several bus stations in different parts of the city servicing buses to different parts of the country, so make sure you check which bus station you need to go to first.
Start travel days early
Because the bus times are not always reliable, I would recommend starting your travel days early, and not to plan much else for this day. Go into your travel days with the expectation of it not going smoothly, and you will be pleasantly surprised. We didn’t have any major hiccups, but you never know with a flexible bus schedule. Under promise, over deliver; that’s what they say, right?
Classic ‘bus stop’
You might not find direct buses
There may not be buses going directly to where you are heading. So in this case, just walk into the bus station saying your destination. Someone will tell you the best place to switch over and point you in the right direction (don’t worry, they aren’t going to expect a tip!). Tell the driver your final destination, and they will tell you where to get on the next bus, the time it leaves etc.
Don’t attempt the Saranda to Ksamil bus in the summer
The bus from Saranda to Ksamil is not worth taking in the height of the summer. Honestly, you’d be better off paying for a taxi. There were SO many people on this bus that we could barely breathe. We had 20kg of backpack on our backs and 10kg on our fronts and were well and truly sardined in this bus.
Chris was sweating so much that there was a physical puddle forming from the sweat dripping down his elbow and on to the floor as we held on for dear life (and I am absolutely not exaggerating even in the slightest!).
Locals know best
The locals will know the times that the bus leaves, where it leaves from etc. so if you’re not sure, ask around in restaurants or shops. The Albanian people are really friendly, and if they don’t know the answer, they will likely find someone else to help you.
Cute anecdote: We were staggering with our big old backpacks to the bus station. A guy in a car pulled up next to us and asked if we were going to Tirana; we weren’t. But, he had just driven past the station and had seen the bus for Tirana was being packed up. He was worried we were getting this bus and thought we were going to miss it, so was offering us a ride!
Almost beach time
Bus stations are marked on Maps.me
Bus stations and bus stops aren’t always marked on Google Maps. Download an Albanian map on Maps.me instead. It will have several bus stops/stations marked, so zoom into the city you’re looking for and search all the bus icons. They will be named something clear like ‘Bus to Tirana’, ‘Bus to Montenegro’ etc.
The Albanian transport website
Our absolute best tip is to plan your routes using Gjirafa. Secret squirrel. This is THE only website that we have found that knows when and where the buses are going. (FYI Albanians call Albania ‘Shqipëria’ and not ‘Albania’. You will see this on the website – it confused me!)
Everything is possible in Albania
And, in all seriousness, travelling is as much about the journey as it is the destination. It’s all part of that authentic Albanian experience. Furgon rides are the perfect place to get chatting to locals or other travellers. We met an Australian father and daughter on a bus and spent the journey exchanging recommendations for our next few stops in Albania. Roll with the punches, keep a very loose plan on travel days, and keep the faith that it’ll work out (because it will!).
Never ending views to Korca
Have you travelled around Albania by bus? Do you have any other tips?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, recommendations or questions.
Thanks for reading!